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The “crown of thorns” is an artistic symbol and literary phrase that is generally attached to Jesus. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John all claimed that a crown woven of thorns was placed on his head before his crucifixion to cause him pain and to mock his claims of authority. All four Gospels related that his execution was based on the charge that he was “king of the Jews.” Pontius Pilatus, the Roman prefect of Judea, questioned Jesus about the claim; Jesus did not deny it but hinted that the charge had originated with “others” and maintained that “My kingdom is not of this world." Pilatus was inclined to release Jesus, but his Jewish opponents objected, saying "If thou release this man, thou art not Caesar's friend: every one that maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar…. We have no king but Caesar." After condemning him to death, Pilatus wrote "Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews" on a placard to be affixed to the cross. The Jews objected to the term and wanted him to merely write that Jesus only claimed the title, but Pilatus disregarded their protests. En route to the place of crucifixion, the soldiers placed a crown of thorns and a purple robe on him. Later, according to Luke, the soldiers mocked him again by saying, "If thou art the King of the Jews, save thyself." (Matthew claimed that it was the Jewish priests who did the mocking, saying, "He is the King of Israel; let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe on him.") The title was derived from Jesus’ supposed descent from king David in order to fulfill messianic prophecies, indeed, “Messiah” meant “the anointed one” and referred to a royal consecration. It may well have been the case that Jesus, as a surviving member of the revered old royal house, was an active political and social revolutionary or was regarded as such by genuine revolutionaries and by those who opposed revolution.
The New Testament presented two detailed accounts of his ancestry (though mostly conflicting, and with various historical omissions). According to Matthew, he was descended from David’s successor, king Solomon, while Luke claimed he was descended from Solomon’s older brother Nathan, the third of the four sons of David and Bathsheba. Luke also said that Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, was Mary’s "relative" and was descended from Moses’ older brother Aaron, the founder of the Levite line of priests; Gregory Nazianzen, a 4th-century archbishop of Constantinople, thus inferred that Mary was also descended from Aaron, thus uniting kingly and priestly lineages in Jesus, but Thomas Aquinas, in the 13th century, argued that Mary's father was of royal descent and her mother was the Levite. In about 177, Celsus wrote the first comprehensive attack on Christianity, Alēthēs logos (the True Word), which survives only in Origen’s refutation of 248, in which he is sometimes quoted, sometimes paraphrased, and sometimes only referred to. According to Origin, Celcus claimed that when Mary “was pregnant she was turned out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed, as having been guilty of adultery, and that she bore a child to a certain soldier named Panthera." Two Talmudic-era texts, “Tosefta Hullin” and “Qohelet Rabbah” also identified Jesus as the son of Pantera or Pandera, as do some editions of the Jerusalem Talmud. At the end of the 4th century, Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis composed the “Panarion,” a compendium of heresies, and claimed that Joseph and Cleopas were sons of "Jacob, surnamed Panther." The “Doctrina Jacobi” (written by a rabbi in 634) recounted Mary’s genealogy according to the tradition of the Jews of Tiberias: “she was a woman, of the race of David, born to Anne her mother and Joachim her father, who was son of Panther. Panther and Melchi were brothers, sons of Levi, of the stock of Nathan, whose father was David of the tribe of Judah.” Using the same information, in the 8th century St. John of Damascus (whose grandfather had been the local tax collector for emperor Heraclius, helped engineer the surrender of Damascus to Khalid ibn al-Walid’s troops in 635, and then, like his son and grandson John, continued to work in the caliphate’s civil service until John became a monk) explained the confusion as due to the Jews’ practice of levirate marriage, by which a childless widow had to marry her husband's brother, and their first-born son was legally regarded as the son of the deceased. The lists seem to contain many examples of this occurrence and the resultant confusion it entailed.
Many commentators, beginning with Eusebius of Caesarea in the 3rd century, have tried to explain the discrepancies between the lists of Matthew and Luke, usually advancing the argument that one lineage was through Jesus’ mother Mary and the other through his adoptive father Joseph (though they disagree over which lineage belongs to which parent), and St. Augustine (who as a youth had pointed to the differences as evidence against the veracity of the Gospels) argued that Joseph also had both a biological and an adoptive father and that the Gospels separately traced Joseph’s heritage through his two fathers. The doctrine of Jesus’ “immaculate conception,” as the son of a virgin mother, also added confusion, since he could not have been descended from the ancient kings of Judea through Joseph, his adoptive father, and the influential “Protevangelium of James” (probably in the 2nd century) told of Mary’s own miraculous birth to her parents, Joachim and Anne, and identified Joseph as an elderly widower with children of his own. Before 383, Helvidius maintained that, after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph had additional children. In response, Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus (“Jerome”) wrote “The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary,” insisting that Joseph was himself a virgin and that his “siblings” were Elizabeth’s offspring. Oddly, though many supposed relics of the crown of thorns have been venerated throughout Christendom, its artistic representation came relatively late, in the 13th century, after St. Louis IX of France constructed the Sainte-Chapelle to house his collection of relics (including the supposed crown of thorns) which he had bought from the Venetian to whom Baudouin II, the count of Flanders who served as the porphyrogeneto of Romania (the Latin Empire at Constantinople), had pawned them for 13,134 gold pieces to raise money to create an army that could regain his lost Byzantine territories from the Muslims. Louis paid 136,000 livres for the relics and another 100,000 on a silver chest to house them in, though the chapel itself only cost 40,000.
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